Russia warns US of 'painful' response if it toughens existing sanctions over Syria

'We will find measures in our toolbox that will have a painful impact, particularly in terms of America’s positioning in the world'

Will Worley
Thursday 20 October 2016 11:14
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Russian bombardments of Aleppo have increased tensions with the West
Russian bombardments of Aleppo have increased tensions with the West

The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister has warned the US of a “painful” response if further sanctions are imposed on the country.

Both the US and EU are considering stepping up measures against Russia in response to the country’s role in Syria, particularly the heavy bombing of Aleppo.

Sanctions have already been imposed by western nations on Russia in response to the country’s annexation of Crimea.

But on Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said: “If the US opts to further toughen sanctions in defiance of common sense and in disregard of its experience that has already been quite painful for them, then we will find measures in our toolbox that will have a painful impact, particularly in terms of America’s positioning in the world.”

Russia has long complained of US aggression and expressed concerns over perceived encirclement by US-backed Nato allies. This rhetoric has been stepped up in recent months in response to increasing tensions.

Earlier in October, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said ideological “aggressive Russiophobia” was at “the heart” of US policy towards the country.

Both Nato and Russia have conducted mass military drills close to border areas, though Russia caused further unrest by transferring nuclear capable missiles to the eastern European enclave of Kaliningrad, also in October.

Mr Ryabkov told MPs that Russia’s moves were “strictly proportionate and adequate” and “not guided by emotions,” according to state media service RT.

However, Mr Ryabkov warned that “asymmetrical” measures could be used to up the stakes with the US and Nato if deemed necessary.

The deputy foreign minister blamed the Obama administration for its “more arrogant, forceful and focused on the attempts to impose its will on other countries”.

European leaders have refused to rule out sanctions against Moscow, as both French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the Russian campaign in Syria.

In a visit to Berlin by Russian president Vladmir Putin – the first since the 2014 annexation of Crimea – talks centred around the bombing of Aleppo.

Ms Merkel said the discussions "gave Germany the clear chance to define what constitutes a war crime. Bombardments are inhumane and a cruel experience for the people," AFP reported.

Mr Hollande went further, telling Mr Putin bluntly that "what is happening in Aleppo is a war crime, one of the first demands is that the bombardments by the regime and its [Russian] backers must end".

Of sanctions, Mr Hollande said: "Everything that can constitute a threat can be useful." Ms Merkel added: "we cannot remove this option".

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